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Time has long passed for a genuire Regional Policy including Regional Transport Strategy

Statement by Michael D Higgins TD, Labour Party President and General Election candidate for Galway
11th April 2007

With a major conference about to happen on Friday 13 April, organised by the West-on-Track Community Campaign and the Western Development Commission, Michael D Higgins TD, Labour Party President and General Election candidate for Galway West, states that the time has long gone to move beyond rhetorical gestures towards a regional policy.

"A genuine regional strategy for the West should be part of a Policy for the Regions that deals with urban diseconomies on the one hand and the neglect and underdevelopment of infrastructure outside of the major cities, on the other.

"Such an integrated approach is singularly lacing at the present time, with wide divergence between the National Spatial Plan, National Development Plan, and such government announcements for regional expenditure, including that directed at the West of Ireland.

"An integrated regional transport initiative is what Labour has called for. This can best be delivered by a Regional Transport Authority with the capacity to take a comprehensive range of decisions including planning. The Dublin Transport Authority has, of course, been neutered by the government and there are no proposals for regional transport authorities for the other regions in the country.

"As the conference in Claremorris takes place, CIE should be asked to point to what studies they have carried out, if any, in terms of existing and future public transport needs and an integrated strategy for the meeting of these needs.

"Their decision to retain but a small proportion of their 14.5 acre site at Ceannt Station in Galway city and to use the greater part of it for a public/private partnership augurs badly for the entire region.

"Labour is committed to an integrated regional public transport strategy, utilising the site at Ceannt Station as a priority for regional public transport needs.

"Having discussed the West-on Track proposals in Claremorris some time ago, when I was accompanied by the Leader of the Labour party Deputy Pat Rabbitte TD, and having again reviewed our own proposals this week, I can state that the Labour Party is committed to treating the opening of the Western Rail Corridor from Claremorris to Ennis as a single project. We are in favour of shortening the timetable for the delivery of this joint project and we believe that the cost of ¤168 million can be justified on economic social and environmental grounds. We further believe that by treating this project in an integrated way, within a similar timetable, a major contribution to a genuine regional strategy can be made.

"The small proportion of state funding under Transport 21 for public transport in the West-less then 6%- makes its own statement. So also does the ratio of capital funding allocated to the roads network by comparison with rail. Needless to say, environmentalists will have noted the implications of our state.








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